New guidelines for free and reduced school lunch released

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - The income guidelines to qualify for free and reduced school lunch are up slightly from last year on a federal level. According to the South Dakota Department of Education, 132,000 students had breakfast and 142,000 had lunch at school during the 2017-18 school year.

(Image Source: USDA / MGN)

"School lunch is not just school lunch anymore," said Cheriee Watterson, the Director of Child and Adult Nutrition Services at the South Dakota Dept. of Education. "We do offer the school breakfast program, so if you submit an application for free or reduced lunch that does carry over to breakfast."

But in some cases that's not all. Watterson said some of the state's 197 schools and agencies participating in free and reduced school meal programs also offer after school snacks and others also have a dinner program.

"Schools that are in higher eligibility income areas with a little bit higher poverty rate, they're eligible to give snacks to everybody after school for free," Watterson said "And they can serve suppers after school for free which is an amazing thing for students who may not go home to a hot meal."

Last year about 44 percent of kids in the Sioux Falls School District qualified for free or reduced breakfast and lunch.

"Good child nutrition, it feeds the brain," said Traci Jensen, a social worker for the Sioux Falls School District. "And kids are able to come to school and sit and focus on their math and reading and whatever subject it may be."

And Jensen said the program is totally confidential, so students won't know if their peers are getting help with their meals.

"There's a very specific group that has that information because they manage the program, but not all staff knows which students qualify," Jensen said. "We wanna protect the privacy and the rights of our families, but we also want to make sure all students are academically successful and that they have the resources."

Jensen said all staff at the school district knows it can be frustrating if you're struggling financially. If you have questions about what you might qualify for or where to apply, Jensen said you should call the school your child goes to, or the district and they will point you in the right direction.